Wednesday, February 13, 2013

50 people you need to know: Church History 101

“My task in this class is to convince you that there was someone between your grandmother and Jesus and that it matters” – Timothy George, church history professor.
There have been a lot of people since the time of the New Testament and before our grandparents who have made a tremendous impact on Christianity and the world. Unfortunately, to our detriment, we refuse to take the time to get to know them.

The ideas we have about our faith and the way we practice it did not originate in a temporal vacuum. They have been influenced by all of those who have gone before us.

Seeing the grand historical scope of Christianity allows us to better appreciate its grandeur and the glory of its Savior. It also can encourage us, as we recognize that we are surrounded with a great cloud of witnesses, both living and dead. Many of them died defending some of the very doctrines you hold.

Just as Christ walks with us, others have walked before us. We do ourselves a disservice by not investigating their lives and contributions to the faith as a whole and our faith as individuals.

Recognizing that, with suggestions from friends on social media, I developed a list of 50 influential individuals within Church history. There are 50 men and women you, as a Christian, should know. Starting next week, once or twice a week, The Wardrobe Door will feature a profile of one of these 50 people in a new series called Church History 101.

Photo from
Before you see the list, you should know what it is and what it is not. This list is not the 50 most influential people in Church history. I would not be qualified to make that judgment. This is merely 50 influential individuals whom I feel should be recognized and, in some cases, more widely known.

I have intentionally left out individuals from the New Testament and those who are alive today. Obviously, Billy Graham has made a significant impact on Church history, but his contributions are not yet completed.

Also, recognizing my ecclesiological background, I have focused mainly on those within my own frame of reference (Protestant, Evangelical and Baptist). This means I have left off popes, as influential as many have been, and the founders of Pentecostalism, despite its rapid growth in the last two centuries.

I have also not included those with whom I have major, central theological differences, as well as individuals outside of Christianity who may have impacted the church from the vantage point of a spectator. I want to speak positively of each one and how Christ worked in and through them.

This is a group who is entirely flawed and imperfect, but they made a lasting impact by simply obeying what Christ had called them to do. I hope in the coming days, weeks and months, these men and women will make an impact on your life and inspire you to your own life of obedience and impact.
50 Influential Individuals in Church History
1. Polycarp
2. Justin Martyr
3. Irenaeus
4. Origen
5. Tertullian
6. Athanasius
7. Aquinas
8. Anselm
9. John Chrysostom
10. Augustine
11. Patrick
12. William of Ockham
13. Francis of Assisi
14. Jon Huss
15. John Wycliffe
16. William Tyndale
17. Balthasar Hubmaier
18. John Bunyan
19. Martin Luther
20. John Calvin
21. John Knox
22. Thomas Cranmer
23. Thomas Helwys
24. Isaac Newton
25. Blaise Pascal
26. Roger Williams
27. David Brainerd
28. Charles & John Wesley
29. Jonathan Edwards
30. George Whitefield
31. George Lisle
32. Andrew Fuller
33. William Carey
34. Adoniram & Ann Judson
35. George Handel
36. William Palely
37. Isaac Watts
38. William Wilberforce
39. George Mueller
40. Timothy Dwight
41. Charles Finney
42. Dwight L. Moody
43. Charles Spurgeon
44. Lottie Moon
45. C.S. Lewis
46. J.R.R. Tolkien
47. Jim & Elizabeth Elliot
48. Corrie Ten Boom
49. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
50. Charles Colson
What do you think of the list? Who would you like to see included that I left off? Are there some names that you don't know? Do you see someone here that you are particularly interested in?

If you would like to write a guest post on an individual for the Church History 101 series here at The Wardrobe Door, email me at with the subject "Church History 101" or tweet me @WardrobeDoor with the hashtag #ChurchHistory101 and let me know who you would like to cover.

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